Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Excerpt - The Rancher’s Convenient Pregnant Bride (Christian Contemporary Romance)

Today, I’m posting an excerpt from Shoshanna Gabriel’s Christian Contemporary Romance, The Rancher’s Convenient Pregnant Bride, book 3 in the Bear Creek Saddle Series.

Here’s the back cover description:

The handsome rancher has an offer for a modern marriage-of-convenience she just can’t refuse…for her baby’s sake.

Eric Hunt, a handsome young rancher in the small mountain town of Bear Creek Saddle, Idaho, learns he can’t have children of his own. His desperate prayers to God for healing are answered with a crystal-clear vision: a beautiful woman with warm brown eyes — his future wife? — and she’s holding a baby. But how…and who?

Across the country, Lindsay Moore’s glamorous Manhattan lifestyle is ripped out from under her when she falls victim to an investment scam, loses her job as an executive at the bank…and finds out she’s pregnant by a man who wants nothing to do with her, or her baby. Abandoned and heartbroken, Lindsay is done with love.

When Lindsay’s sister asks her to come out to Bear Creek Saddle Ranch to be her maid-of-honor and help plan her upcoming wedding, Lindsay has nowhere else to go. But she’s completely out of place in the mountains, and without the sense of importance and identity her career and money used to give her, she feels lost. She’s no longer sure of her value, and she never imagined she’d be in this predicament…single, broke, and raising her baby without a father.

Eric is the groom’s best-man, and when the bride-to-be’s beautiful sister Lindsay arrives, they find themselves drawn to each other, despite all of their differences. With those warm brown eyes, could Lindsay be the one from his vision? When Eric discovers Lindsay is pregnant, he knows God sent Lindsay to him for a reason. Eric wants to marry her and be a father to her baby, even if they’re not in love yet— she’s beautiful inside and out, and he feels called by God to make the proposal. For Lindsay, it’s a way out of the mess she’s made of her life — an offer for a modern marriage-of-convenience that she just can’t refuse.

But can a man and a woman with nothing in common, find common ground…and maybe even love…before their child is born?

Excerpt:

Some context for the scene: Lindsay is pregnant and the doctor wants her off her feet after she fell, at least for the rest of the day to make sure she doesn’t have any more spotting (TMI?). Her sister is out of town, so Eric has volunteered (insisted, really) he bring her lunch in bed since he feels responsible for her fall. That’s the only reason they’re in a bedroom together…this book is clean and wholesome.

Eric brought the tray into his bedroom where Lindsay lay, resting sweetly in his bed, with her legs elevated by a pillow under her knees. She clicked off the news on the television.

“Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread,” Eric announced. “I’m not an advanced chef, but I can make a mean PB&J, at least.”

“That looks perfect.” But instead of reaching for a sandwich, she took his hand. “Will you say grace for us?”

Eric closed his fingers around her small, warm palm, and bowed his head. “Lord, thank You for this food; please bless it to our bodies. Thank You for Lindsay and her baby being okay. You sure did give us a good scare. Please keep them both safe, God. And help me to do whatever I can to help make that happen.”

“Amen,” she murmured.

They both ate in silence for a moment, their mouths too full to speak.

After swallowing and taking a deep sip of water, Lindsay smiled at him. “What do you suppose God wants you to do, to help keep me and my Little One safe?”

“I don’t know. But I wish I did.”

Eric’s heart was beating faster now. Why had he gotten so personal with his prayer in front of her? God already knew what was in his heart. He didn’t have to pray that out loud…and yet he had.

Because he wanted her to know.

“You’re being so nice to me,” she said, smoothing the quilt over her still-flat belly. “I’m having a hard time understanding how you don’t already have a girlfriend.”

She laughed, as if she were joking, but Eric could tell it was a serious question.

“Come on, I’ve had girlfriends before.” He shrugged. “But love don’t last. Never lasted for me, anyways.”

“How so?”

“I had this one girlfriend, after high school… She wasn’t a Christian. Didn’t have the same life goals. She wanted to move to Hollywood and be a movie star. Didn’t want kids, nothing normal like living in Idaho.” Eric smiled wistfully. “And stupid me, I loved her—I really thought I did. But love ain’t enough to fix a relationship doomed from the start.”

Lindsay nodded thoughtfully. “Doomed, because you didn’t want the same things in life?”

“Yeah.” It had been a while since he’d thought about his former girlfriend. Whether or not the love between them had been real, the broken heart he’d experienced after it ended wasn’t something he’d ever repeat on purpose. “We just weren’t on the same page.”

“What happened with her? Is she an actress now?”

“Nah. She moved to L.A. Last I heard she was living with some wannabe drummer or something.”

Lindsay sat back against his pillow, her dark hair framing her face. “Do you miss her?”

Did he?

No.

“She taught me a lesson I needed learning. After her, I’ll only date a woman who has the same morals and goals as me. Love and lust ain’t the top priority, I don’t think. ‘Cause that stuff won’t last anyway.”

She inhaled sharply.

Oh, man.

Did he just blow it? Was she mad he didn’t believe in love?

But instead of glaring at him, she shook her head, as if in amazement.

“I feel the same way you do, Eric. I mean, who needs love when it’s not going to last and just end up hurting you even worse? I want to be with someone I can trust. Someone who I respect. Who I know wants to protect me and my baby.” She sighed. “I’d take that over romance any day.”

If anyone wanted to protect her and her baby, it was him. Could she see that? Did she know?

That guy Grant didn’t deserve to be anywhere near Lindsay or the baby.

“Maybe,” Lindsay said slowly, “after the baby is born, you could be like…a strong male figure in his life. Teach him boy stuff, that kind of thing.”

“Be his dad,” Eric agreed.

She stared at him in stunned silence, her lips parted.

He hadn’t meant to just say that.

It just came out of him, so naturally. He’d been agreeing with her. Of course, he’d be a positive male role model in her child’s life.

He wanted to be even more than that.

Eric could be a father-figure to her child, the way his own father had been for Zach, since Zach’s father had abandoned them.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I meant—I was agreeing, of course. Everything you were saying, that sounds like stuff a father would do. That’s why I said that.”

“Okay.” She still seemed almost out of breath, maybe unsure of either herself, or of what he would say next.

“I don’t have to, if you don’t want me to,” he said. “It was just a suggestion.”

“I want you to. Yes, Eric—I definitely want you to.”

Wow. Was this why God had shown him the vision of himself with a woman—Lindsay, surely—holding a baby?

Lord, is this how You are giving me a family?

Eric never expected direct answers to his prayers. He prayed and asked questions of God way too often, he figured, to get a personalized response on each one.

Until the vision. His one and only vision from God. He was sure of it.

But now, deep within himself, Eric could feel the answer.

Yes. This is it.

Eric grinned. Thank You, God. Thank You, thank You. Please don’t let me jack this up.

“Lindsay,” he said softly. “I just want to give you a thought, something to pray on, something to mull over. No need to answer right away, okay?”

She looked up at him from her pillow and nodded. “Okay…”

“You have a baby coming, with no father. And I have an empty house, with no wife, and no chance of having children of my own.”

“What are you saying, Eric?” She didn’t sound mad… just… curious? Excited, even?

Was that possible? Did she want this too?

Yes, she does.

Eric felt the Holy Spirit whispering within him as clearly as he could feel the softness of the quilt on the bed beneath his fingers.

“Maybe,” he said, “instead of just being a father-figure in your baby’s life, I could be his actual father. You and I could get married, and you could live here with me, and we’d raise the child together. As partners.”

“Like… co-parenting?”

“If that means parenting together, then yeah,” he said. “You wouldn’t have to worry about being broke anymore, ’cause I’d take care of my wife, my family. That’s what I always wanted to do anyways, ‘fore I even met you.”

“You just met me. No one does this.”

“I may’ve just met you, but I’ve been hearing about you from your sister all year. That girl can’t say enough ’bout you.”

“She’s told me about you too.”

Eric grinned. “So we ain’t strangers, not really.”

Lindsay’s eyes welled with unshed tears. “You are an amazing, generous man to offer this to me. To us. But you don’t know what you’re getting into. I’ve got tens of thousands of dollars in debt. If we got legally married, you’d be taking that on.”

“Haven’t had nothing good to spend my money on all these years.” Eric shrugged. “Already got a good truck. Got a house, and no mortgage ’cause I built it myself. I could pay off your debt with you, if you’d agree to be my wife.”

Her jaw dropped, her mouth opened like a small letter O, and she stared at him with an expression of pure surprise.

“Why?” she asked. “Why me?”

“I like you, Lindsay. I… I care about you, and the baby. I want only good things for you both.”

“What else? There has to be something I’m missing here. What’s in it for you? Sex?”

Heat rushed to his ears. Hopefully in the dim light of the bedroom she wouldn’t notice, but he turned his head and stared at the embroidery on the quilt instead of looking at her intense gaze.

Lord, give me the words. If this is really Your will, help me out.

He took a deep breath, and looked at her. “You’re right. There is something in it for me. Last few months I moped around, sure as all get-out I’d never have a family. Never’d find a beautiful woman who liked being with me, who respected me as a man, even though I can’t give her children, and who’d marry me anyways.”

He smiled wistfully. “I always wanted to be a dad. My folks are awesome—you’d love ’em. They want to be grandparents, too. You should see how happy they are that my brother’s wife’s got a baby on the way—”

“Is that it? You want to be like your brother?”

“No.” He sighed. Telling her everything would make him sound out of his mind. But the truth was all he had, and she deserved to know why he felt so confident they’d make it, despite having just met her.

Please don’t let me mess this up more. Help me.

“I see you,” Eric said finally, “and… and you look just like the woman in my vision.”

There. He’d said it. Now she knew.

“Vision?” she echoed uncertainly.

“I haven’t just heard about you before…I’ve seen you before.”

“In a photo,” she suggested.

He looked at her and shook his head. He tapped his temple. “In here. I think that’s why it already feels like I know you. God showed me you were coming, and the baby, even.”

“My sister must’ve told you I was coming.”

Eric shook his head again, very slightly. “Do you believe God can show someone something true?”

“Yes…of course.”

“This ain’t something that’s ever happened to me before. I don’t know if it’ll ever happen again. But God showed me, clear as day. You and me and the baby. I can’t ignore that like it didn’t happen. It happened. And now…you’re here.”

Lindsay didn’t look nearly as taken aback as his brother had.

“You really feel this was a vision from God?” she asked. “How sure are you?”

“I was ninety-seven percent sure when it first happened, and I told my brother about it. But then, when I met you…well, I’m a hundred percent sure now. I don’t think I’d have the guts to propose what I’m proposing if I wasn’t so sure.”

He liked how she was taking it all in—she didn’t dismiss it right away like his brother had. As if maybe, just maybe, he was valuable enough to God to get a special vision created specifically for him.

To have a gorgeous woman in front of him who believed in him that way…how could he give that up?

“When I saw your baby’s heartbeat on that monitor, I just… I want us to be a family.”

“This is crazy,” Lindsay whispered. “I thought the same thing, at the same time, even. How it would be, if you were my baby’s father.”

“I think it’s what God wants, too. For me to ask you. You don’t have to be head-over-heels in love with me. I don’t expect that. We both know how that stuff ends up.”

She nodded. “Unfortunately. Yeah.”

“But we’ll each be filling a big gap in each other’s life. You need a husband and provider, and I need a family. We can do this together.”

“Like a business arrangement?”

“Like a marriage arrangement,” he said. “Like in the olden days. Those marriages-of-convenience lasted forever, compared to now, where half the people who marry for love end up divorcing.”

“That’s true,” she mused.

“New love, lust, that all fades, Lindsay. But having common values and filling each other’s needs—that lasts.”

***


Lindsay couldn’t believe what she was hearing from Eric. But it was the answer to her prayers.

Was it “settling” if she married someone when they weren’t in love, even if they had the same Christian values and the goal of raising a happy, healthy child together?

Not really, not if she didn’t want to get so attached to a man that she ended up completely destroyed when the relationship ended—which it would—either by divorce, abandonment, or, best case scenario…after many decades together, right when she was completely and utterly in love and not whole without him…death.

Just like what had happened to her dad when her mom died.

By accepting Eric’s proposal, could she be missing out on the perfect man for her?

Unless this was God’s plan all along. And Eric was, in fact, the perfect man for her.

What did “perfect” mean, anyway? A hundred years ago, marrying a wealthy, educated man was considered the perfect match. And while Eric wasn’t like the hedge-fund managers or lawyers from New York that she’d previously dated, he was still an incredible guy.

“Let me think about this,” she said. “Okay?”

Hopefully he wouldn’t change his mind in the amount of time it took her to make up hers…

Excerpt from The Rancher’s Convenient Pregnant Bride, Book 3 in the Bear Creek Saddle Series
© 2018 Shoshanna Gabriel
All Rights Reserved.

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Shoshanna is one of the twelve authors participating with me in the Christian Contemporary Romance anthology, Save the Date, which releases September 15!

I also posted a knitting pattern for the cozy tube scarf that Shoshanna’s heroine Kate uses in her novella, Countdown to Her Cowboy’s Christmas Wedding, which is in Save the Date.


Preorder now to get 12 novellas for only 99 cents!

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